FARMINGTON – A replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, called The Wall That Heals, arrived this week in Farmington.
The wall is a mobile replica of the permanent memorial in Washington, D.C., that is moved throughout the country and set up for people to visit.
On Wednesday, about 50 volunteers helped set up the wall by carrying the panels with the names of the more than 58,000 of those who “gave the ultimate sacrifice” in Vietnam.
Callie Wright, site manager with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, said the nonprofit was founded in 1979 by a Vietnam veteran “with the intention of building a memorial down on the National Mall.” She added that this was different from the Vietnam War Memorial in that the veterans memorial isn’t just for those who served but also for their families.
“I believe it is incredibly important for us to be able to bring the memorial all over the country and not just share it with those in D.C., but with everyone,” Wright said. “Not everybody gets the opportunity to come to D.C., and I will tell you, New Mexico is pretty far from D.C.”
Setup began Wednesday, as a minimum of two volunteers per panel were instructed to carry the plate of names to the wall’s bar outline, with a strict two-hand-carry rule.
The Wall that Heals will be open 24 hours a day while in Farmington, with volunteer staff members on-site to help answer questions and provide supplies and instruction for how to do a rubbing of names on the wall.
“We really hope that people will come out and take advantage of this opportunity to read the names on the wall,” Wright said.
She added that some items left at the wall in Washington, D.C., travel with the replica wall and are on display at the education trailer.
Andy Riffle, a volunteer who also was part of the wall’s escort into town, is a Vietnam War veteran who said he wanted to do everything he can to promote the wall’s visit for the general public.
“We’re the only city in New Mexico that gets to see this, so that’s why I am here,” Riffle said.
Riffle, who is from the Bloomfield area, said his role in the war was as a U.S. Navy construction heavy equipment operator.
When the wall arrived Tuesday, Riffle and other members of the American Legion Post 9 in Aztec hopped on their motorcycles to escort the wall to Farmington.
Riffle, 75, hadn’t yet found any names he recognized on the wall, but he hadn’t had much time to look. Volunteer crews moved quickly to install the wall and get out of the heat.
“Everybody was against us and it was a hostile environment when I got back,” Riffle said. “Hopefully, this (wall) will encourage the younger children to learn what it was all about.”
Zillah Williams, a volunteer who joined the cause with her employer, the Farmington Municipal Schools bus barn, said it was important for the wall to come to Farmington.
“It’s a lot of lives that fought for our freedom, so I think that’s very important,” Williams said.
She added that some of her family members were Navajo Code Talkers during World War II, and other family served in the Marines.